Surveys find that psychologists tend to align themselves with a liberal political orientation. Why is that? Are liberal-minded people drawn to human service professions or is there something about working in human services that causes people to become more liberal in their political views? In this episode I propose a few ideas that I think explains why mental health professionals tend to be on the liberal side of the political spectrum. I invite your constructive feedback on these suggestions.
Resources on Psychology and Politics
…90.6 percent of social and personality psychologists describe themselves as liberal on social issues (compared with 3.9 percent who describe themselves as conservative), and 63.2 percent describe themselves as liberal on economic issues (compared with 10.3 percent who describe themselves as conservative). Overall, they found a liberal-to-conservative ratio of 14:1. – Polarized Psycholgy
Suggestions as to Why Mental Health Workers Tend to Have a Liberal Political Orientation
- Mental health workers spend their days in direct contact with people who, because of their mental/emotional/situational challenges, are simply not able to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps”. They need assistance, often in the form of social programs, to be able to do this.
- Social programs often require government assistance, which often means increased taxes. Conservatives are typically in favor of lowering taxes and less government intervention.
- The branch of psychology called Social Psychology focuses on external causes of behavior. Studies such as those by Stanley Milgram, Solomon Asch, Henri Tajfel, and Philip Zimbardo demonstrate that our behavior, thoughts and feelings are often strongly influenced by our surroundings. Conservatives tend to focus on the individual.
- Another large branch of psychology – Behaviorism – also focuses on the influence of reinforcers in our environment and how they can make us behave, think and feel. Thus, to change people (from this perspective) requires changes in the environment (e.g., social programs).
I mentioned the “Filter Bubble” in this episode – the fact that the information we are exposed to from TV and from the web is often tailored only toward what organizations (particularly those that want to sell you something) think you would agree with. Thus, it is very hard to get an accurate picture of what is really happening in the world.